We sat in the front row as a family, as per our usual. “I can hold it together,” I kept telling myself. “I am here at Mass for healing; this is much-needed.” And indeed it was. And is. I was mostly fine until it came to the Doxology, when the priest holds up the Host and the chalice and prays, ‘Through Him, and with Him, and in Him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is Yours, for ever and ever.” I couldn’t contain my tears any longer. For reasons known only truly to God, this part of the Eucharistic prayer broke me (in a good way).
Last August I publicly shared about my sexual abuse from an ordained member of the clergy. In re-opening that wound, I was at the bottom of the barrel while trying to maintain the daily life of my family. At the beginning of this year I used Jen Fulwiler’s Word of the Year generator and my word was “Rise.” Now, eight months later, I feel as though that word is starting to take root in me.
What Does It Mean to Rise?
When I think of “rise,” the image that comes to mind for me is out of the fire. The experience of abuse was like fire consuming and burning me. I thought I had dealt with it, thought that I had stamped it out. Thought that the embers were cool enough to be safe and not reignite. But then last summer the fire broke out again and those embers felt hotter than ever, searing me anew. I have new scars from last summer. That is the reality of trauma and being re-traumatized.
Rising up from trauma is taking a lot of work. Self-work for sure, but also self-advocacy, and lots of prayer. And not the nice prayers of offering up all my sufferings (necessarily) or thanking God for all that he has brought me through (though there is also that intertwined at times). I’m talking anger-prayer. Frustrated-prayer. Prayer that is simultaneously weeping and near hopelessness. The one thing that kept me going was Peter saying, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). If I did not fully believe this statement, I would have been lost.
Rising has meant a lot of therapy. I am thankful that my abuser’s diocese is, this time, addressing this and not ignoring it. They are supporting me, and one way has been through providing for therapy. Therapy has not been an easy task, as anyone who experiences it might share. But it is helping. And I have some strategies that I can employ when I feel overwhelmed by painful emotions now, so I fare much better during the Doxology than I used to.
Slowly, I feel as though I am rising out of the ashes instead feeling like the fire is still burning me, or thinking that I could control the hot embers. Those embers will always be there, and I am now learning how to cool them after they’ve been reignited, and trying to appreciate that the scars I wear have taught me much. Part of my path is learning how God wants me to use my experience to bring Him glory while also bringing me healing.
You Are Intimately Known to Him
Through this last year, I’ve heard Jesus calling me by my name, letting me know that He has plans for me. Specific plans, not general and impersonal, but specific to me. I know with certainty that I have the ability to participate in the life of the Trinity and bring glory to God. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so sure about this before in my life, even though I believed it. It was more of a impersonal, “Of course I believe that, I’m sure it happens to some people.” I know now that it is true for me.
The thing is, it’s not just me for whom it’s true. Beyond a doubt, Jesus is calling every one of us by our name. He has something for you, specific to your unique and quirky self. My perspective is absolutely unique — one of growing up in a small town, having parents divorce, feeling called to pursue theology and loving it, but also experiencing the atrocity of sexual abuse while being in a place that was teaching me something that I loved, to all the other things about me that make me unique. No one else has my perspective, and for some reason, Jesus wants me and my perspective to pursue certain adventures for Him.
You have an unrepeatable perspective on life and God wants you to use it for his glory. You are cherished, you have dignity, and you have purpose. Maybe you, like me, need help through therapy to understand better your perspective. Or maybe you know what it is God is calling you to, but it’s overwhelming thinking of it. Maybe you’re just still figuring it all out. Even in our struggles, God wants to be with us and to share His divine life, His graces, with us. Often it is in those struggles that, despite how far away we feel from God, He is closer to us than the oxygen in our lungs. Our pain can make it hard to breathe, like the smoke from fire choking us, but he is more life giving than anything we can consume. He is with us, He wants to be this close to us always, and not only when we are hurting.
We all endure the fire of trauma. A year after being re-traumatized, I am still finding God’s heart accompanying me on this journey, perhaps even more intensely. The trauma has brought me to my knees in a way that easy-going, non-burning life has not, and there is a gift in realizing my reliance on God. The challenge is bringing that reliance from the fires into the calm. There is so much He wants to give us, and not just his sustaining power in times of trouble. He invites us to a life of fullness, of overflowing peace and joy in Him.
So, sisters, here’s to you who are burning in the flames as I was. May you find God’s sustenance in this time, may you feel His gentle caress amidst the flames, and may you know how intimately He knows you. You are worthy of His love. Not even fire can take that away.
How has God sustained you through times of trouble?
Copyright 2019 Jane Korvemaker